Friday, July 27, 2012

1986-87 Dukla Jihlava Petr Vlk Jersey

July by the Numbers returns to communist-era Czechoslovakia for jersey #27.

Founded in 1956 while Czechoslovakia was now under communist rule in the aftermath of World War II, HC Dukla Jihlava would see it's first success arrive in 1965 when they captured the prestigious Spengler Cup for the first time and would repeat as champions again in 1966.

Buoyed by that success, Dukla Jihlava (from 80 miles southeast of Prague) began a run of dominance in the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League that would see a run of six consecutive championship titles beginning in 1967 and stretching through 1972 aided by the fact the team was affiliated with the Czech military in much the same way the Soviet Union's Central Red Army was, which gave them first choice of many of the best players in the country, as once a players was identified as a high level player, they could simply be drafted into the army and assigned to Dukla Jihlava.

The name "Dukla" is in memory of the Battle of the Dukla Pass, which took place in the Carpathian Mountains throughout September and October of 1944 in which over 20,000 Soviet and 6,500 Czechoslovak troops were killed and over 93,000 combined were wounded as they attempted to drive the Nazis from Slovakia by entering the region through the mountains from Poland to the north. Many sports clubs in Czechoslovakia which had connections to the military were named Dukla after the battle, several of which in varying sports still retain the name today, particularly Dukla Jihlava in the Czech Republic and HK Dukla Trencin from Slovakia in ice hockey.

1966-67 Dukla Jihlava team, 1966-67 Dukla Jihlava team
The first championship club in team history,
the 1966-67 Dukla Jihlava squad. Someone tell the guy
in the center of the back row to take his helmet off.

Not satisfied with dominating their domestic league, Dukla placed second in the European Champions Cup to fellow Czech side ZKL Brno and won another Spengler Cup in 1968 to cap off a memorable year. They later finished as runners up to the dominant Soviet Club Central Red Army in the Champions Cup in 1971.

1971-72 Dukla Jihlava team, 1971-72 Dukla Jihlava team
The 1971-72 Dukla Jihlava team, winners of the the sixth consecutive championship

In 1973, their streak of six Czech titles came to an end with a runner up finish, but Dukla eased some of that disappointment with another European Champions Cup runner up position, again to Central Red Army.

They returned to their winning ways back home in 1974 with their seventh First League title. A fourth second place in the Champions Cup followed in 1975 and the era of Dukla's domination wound down with third places in the domestic league in 1975 and 1976 and second place finishes in 1977, 1979 and 1980.

Quickly rising back to the pinnacle once more, their eighth Czechoslovak title came in 1982 followed by their fifth Spengler Cup later that same year. They then embarked on another streak of First League dominance, as consecutive championships followed in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Coinciding with their latest run of championships, Dukla had two more runner up finishes in the European Champions Cup in 1983 and 1984 to the dominant Soviet Central Red Army (who would win 20 cups in the 22 years from 1969 to 1990).

1984-85 Dukla Jihlava, 1984-85 Dukla Jihlava
Celebrating their championship title in 1985

Their second streak of championships would come to a close with runner up finishes in 1986 and 1987 followed by a third place in 1988 but they would rebound with their 12th First League title in 1991.

1990-91 Dukla Jihlava team, 1990-91 Dukla Jihlava team
The most recent championship winning team from 1990-91

Notable players to have skated for Dukla include the father of NHLer Bobby Holik, Jaroslav Holik and the father of NHLer Ladislav Smid, Ladislav Smid Sr. Also of note was Jan Suchy played for Dukla from 1963-64 to 1978-79 and was the first recipient in 1969 of the Golden Hockey Stick award given to the top Czech hockey player annually. He won the award again in 1970, as did legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek, who played his final season in Czechoslovakia in 1989-90 with Dukla Jihlava prior to coming to North America to embark in his NHL career. Igor Liba and Bedrich Scerban also won the award while with Dukla.

1967-68 smid & holik, 1967-68 smid & holik
Ladislav Smid, Sr. and Jaroslav Holik - champions in 1967-68

Since their glory days during the time of communism, Dukla Hilava has found life in the capitalist present increasingly tough as the profound change in the political world has leveled the playing field, taking away the inherent advantages of support by the Czech military.

Since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Dukla first played in the Czech Extraliga but were relegated to the Czech 1. liga in 1999 for a period of five seasons before earning a promotion back to the top for one season before being relegated immediately in 2005 and are again seeking a promotion to the top level once more.

Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 Dukla Jihlava Petr Vlk jersey. Seemingly every team in the world had advanced to polyester air knit or ultrafil jerseys by the late 1980's but this Dukla Jihlava sweater is stuck in the past, looking like something from the mid-70's as it remains a knit jersey with a lace-up collar.

In the classic Czech style, it has a large, wide block, somewhat thin font for the numbers with a drop shadow that really fills up the back of a jersey like no other countries does. Of note, and something that we absolutely love, is the bar across the 7 in the oh-so-very Eastern European style. One of our earliest hockey memories is viewing the 1972 Olympics and seeing the mysterious communists from Czechoslovakia in action for the first time and seeing a "barred 7" for the first time and thinking, "They're so foreign, they even draw their numbers different!"

Dukla Jihlava 86-87 jersey, Dukla Jihlava 86-87 jersey
Dukla Jihlava 86-87 jersey, Dukla Jihlava 86-87 jersey

photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1990-91 Dukla Jihlava Petr Vlk jersey. Skip ahead four seasons and we find Dukla Jihlava has quickly caught up to the state of the art European jersey style as their jerseys are now made by Tackla of polyester mesh with all the graphics fully sublimated, which allows for the much more intricate and detailed coat of arms team crest and the diagonal stripes across the chest.

Gone are the classic numbers in the large "Czech style", replaced by the standard Tackla 3-D block numbers as most often seen in the Olympics and World Championships from 1989 to 1995.

Dukla Jihlava 90-91 jersey, Dukla Jihlava 90-91 jersey

photo (quite obviously) courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section brings you what is declared as the "best ice hockey match ever" between VSZ Kosice and Dukla Jihlava. Let's go to the video tape (in two parts) and see if it lives up to it's advance billing...

Rock on! Na-na-na-nana!

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